The morning after Donald Trump was elected president, Andrea Myklebust’s sheep needed new hay. Distraught by the results from the night before, feeling like this was the first day of a suddenly altered American reality, she walked down the driveway of her farm to meet the man who brings her feed for her flock. Myklebust didn’t know for sure, but she suspected he had voted for Trump, a person she considered odious, dangerous and unqualified for the job he had just won. She said nothing about the election, and neither did he, as they talked only about where to drop the bales of hay—a brief exchange during which, she told me, she tried to “rearrange” her facial expression into something “neutral,” “friendly.” She could do only so much, though, to mask her despair. The sculptor, shepherd and weaver had moved from Minnesota’s Twin Cities because she found this area’s rolling hills bucolic and welcoming—and now, and for the first time in her 11 years here, she felt uneasy.
When I met Myklebust, 51, in late November, these sentiments had not softened. She described the history-twisting election of 2016 in stark, before-and-after terms, unable to fathom how anybody could have voted for Trump, much less three-fifths of the people with whom she shares her adopted home in Pepin County. “There is sort of a baseline assumption of common sense and decency that’s been thrown into question in a way I never expected it to be,” she said. “And it’s a struggle. You have to continue to interact with people, and you have to wonder: Do you really have hate in your heart in this way? Really? At the core, I didn’t believe this about us.”